El Paso County officials seek help at morgue as coronavirus fatalities climb

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El Paso County detention facility inmates, also known as “trustees” who are low-level offenders, help move bodies to mobile morgue units outside the medical examiner’s Office in El Paso on Nov. 14, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Ivan Pierre Aguirre

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EL PASO — El Paso County officials on Thursday evening sent out a plea for applicants to work at the county medical examiner’s office as the number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 here continues to rise.

“The Morgue Attendants will be provided maximum PPE, and will receive a COVID test prior to starting. All Morgue Attendants will be tasked with physically moving Decedents,” the notice reads. “Not only is this assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing as well.”

The request comes as the county has resorted to using low-level offenders from the county jail to help transport the deceased. Their work will continue until there are enough new hires, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Thursday.

“Not everybody is going to be able to do that. We’ve had people there that have lasted an hour, 30 minutes, half a day,” he said. “So, it’s a difficult process.”

Samaniego is also waiting for the Texas National Guard to respond to the county’s request to have units stationed at the morgue to help with transport.

“They asked for an assessment of our fatalities situation, and it's been submitted,” he said. “It’s in their hands to determine whether or not they’re going to be able to come to El Paso for fatalities management.”